The new oceanographic research vessel Belgica will be operated by Genavir, specialised in the management of scientific vessels. The manager of the French oceanographic fleet will thus also become the first French shipping company to manage a ship under the Belgian flag.
As a subsidiary of the French Institute of Marine Research (Institut Français de Recherche pour l’Exploitation de la Mer, IFREMER), Genavir has 45 years of experience in providing services to scientific and state institutions. The shipping company manages, operates and maintains the coastal and offshore vessels of the French oceanographic fleet, as well as the manned submarine Nautile, ROVs (Remotely Operated Vehicles), AUVs (Autonomous Underwater Vehicles) and other marine scientific research equipment.
“This is a first in Europe and a great recognition of our know-how” says Eric Derrien, Managing Director of Genavir. “We are proud to have been chosen from several European shipowners. The Belgian government has put its trust in us and we are now committed to satisfying the Belgian scientific community and future international users of the vessel”.
With a length of 71.40 m and a width of 16.80 m, the Belgica was first launched on 11 February 2020. The ship is currently being delivered by the FREIRE Shipyard in Vigo, Spain, and the Genavir crew is preparing for the takeover, which should take place in early December 2021. The ship will soon be taken to her home port, the Zeebrugge naval base, where she is expected to arrive before the end of 2021. The Belgica will have the status of an auxiliary ship of the Belgian Navy, and will fly the corresponding flag.
A combination of strong expertise
The mixed crew will consist of three Belgian naval officers (on secondment at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences), including the first captain Gaëtan Motmans, in addition to officers and sailors from Genavir. The ship will of course remain the property of the Federal Science Policy (BELSPO), and the RBINS will remain responsible for the budgetary management of the ship, the scientific instruments and the programming of the scientific campaigns.
“The award of the contract for the operation of the new Belgica to the operator Genavir is the final step before the ship can set sail for Belgium,” said Lieven Naudts, coordinator of the ‘Measurement Service and RV Belgica’ team at the RBINS. “We are very much looking forward to continuing Belgium’s marine scientific activities with the new Belgica, launching new lines of research and thus remaining at the forefront of European marine scientific research.”
Large working area, low environmental impact
The new BELGICA has all the necessary equipment to carry out scientific campaigns from the polar to the intertropical zone, and from shallow waters to a depth of 5,000 metres. Its exploration area covers the North Sea, far beyond the Arctic Circle, the Atlantic Ocean as far as West Africa, the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. Monitoring the state of the Belgian part of the North Sea will of course always remain an important action point.
The vessel is designed as a ‘green ship’, with extremely low emissions due to the treatment of the exhaust gases, thus meeting the strictest contemporary standards (MARPOL Tier III).